Staying Ahead of Our Changing Comms Landscape

March 2023
Share this article
Like many professions today, public relations is undergoing a whirlwind of changes in a more technologically driven and interconnected world. 

These changes have been particularly stark just in the last five years. The advent of artificial intelligence technology that can generate text has led a few observers to say that traditional PR is dead. Such claims might be alarmist and hyperbolic, but they contain a measure of truth, especially regarding the phrase “traditional PR.”

Simply put, the old methods of public relations are going out of fashion. It’s no longer enough to say you have the right media contacts when companies are increasingly building their own contact lists. It’s no longer enough to blast a generic pitch to a bunch of reporters and hope for a few bites. 

It’s also not enough to place an article anymore. Today, PR pros need strategies for how they will get that article noticed on social media.

Public relations is far from dead, of course. It’s just evolving into a new form, one increasingly driven by data and AI analysis. To adapt to this new reality, communicators will have to stay current with the forces behind it and incorporate those trends into their operational strategies for 2023 and beyond.

Artificial intelligence can produce copy.

Much has been made of how AI technology that generates text — especially GhatGPT — is disrupting marketing, communications and sales. 

The technology is still relatively new, but its latest iterations can already execute basic writing tasks such as drafting introductory emails, biographical blurbs and outlines. Communicators who have begun integrating this technology have found that it can streamline their workflows and save time.

But these high-tech advancements don’t signal the end of human writers. The technology falls short when it comes to long-form content that requires insight, knowledge and experience. The text starts to meander and to sound like a poorly conceived high-school term paper.

Communicators will likely find more applications for text-generating technology, allowing PR professionals to get more done in less time. But we’re a long way from having AI programs that can write deeply researched, thought-provoking op-eds — a relief, no doubt, for PR writers everywhere. 

Big data measures PR campaigns, improves agencies.

Measuring the impact of a PR campaign is far from an exact science. It’s more like a series of educated guesses based on earned media and total website visits that can only estimate a campaign’s reach.

To make the case for their services, some PR agencies have turned to the dubious measurement of “publicity value,” or how much an article placement would have cost had it been an equally sized, paid advertisement.

Now, thanks to data-analytics technology, PR professionals can more accurately gather information on trending stories in the news and gauge public sentiment toward their clients. Based on those real-time insights, communicators can tailor campaigns around their target audience’s perceived needs and motivations. 

With data-analytics programs, PR practitioners can measure customer engagement, brand mentions and sales figures in real-time, thus accurately determining the impact of their campaigns and how they can be improved.

Many PR professionals are only now waking up to the possibilities of how big data can not only boost the performance of their clients’ campaigns, but also enhance the competitiveness of their own agencies. As with artificial intelligence, the use of big data in PR will almost certainly expand.

Media fragmentation will continue.

The media landscape continues to widen and fragment, another factor that’s placing new demands on PR agencies and testing their capabilities. There are now more blogs, online publishers and content than ever before, all competing for people’s ever-shrinking attention spans. 

For PR professionals, media fragmentation from a few major news organizations into a multitude of smaller outlets has made it far more difficult to get a client’s content noticed. But the growing abundance of online media outlets has also created new opportunities for outreach and engagement. 

For instance, brand partnerships with social media influencers are now an established marketing strategy. New, major influencers are constantly arising in niche areas. 

At the same time, podcasts and related YouTube videos have exploded in popularity. TikTok’s meteoric rise has demonstrated a huge appetite for short-form video content on social media — while also showing that communications professionals need to keep an eye out for emerging platforms.

PR professionals will need to broaden their horizons to include these new publicity opportunities. Communicators will also have to be more flexible about how they get their clients noticed. 

Media contacts less valuable?

For a long time, a list of media contacts in a Rolodex or digital database was among a PR professional's greatest assets. Those relationships with reporters, built over many years, could yield media coverage for clients. 

Today, the rise of social media, instant messaging and automated marketing platforms has made it easy and affordable for just about anyone to connect with journalists who might be interested in their stories. 
That said, relationships still matter, particularly with your clients, who now value the personalized media experiences you can provide to them more than they value the breadth of your media contacts. 

As the PR profession continues to progress, recognizing new technologies and trends, and learning how to use them to our advantage, is crucial for any practitioner’s survival. 

No doubt, some PR agencies will continue doing legacy-style work for long-time clients that are content with status-quo methods and vague performance metrics. In the long run, though, they will become as outdated as the typewriter if they are unable to adapt to the changing media landscape.
Return to Current Issue The Future of Work | March 2023
Share this article

Subscribe to Strategies & Tactics


*Strategies & Tactics is included with a PRSA membership